THE UK Government is prioritising issues like small boats crossings “at the expense of tackling human trafficking” – despite a rhetoric about stamping down on people smugglers, an MPs’ report has concluded.

Westminster’s Home Affairs Committee, in a report into human trafficking published on Friday, said the UK Government had been conflating “immigration with human trafficking and modern slavery at the expense of protection of victims of human trafficking”.

It said a lack of accountability in the Home Office had seen “key legislation affecting victims of trafficking … enacted with minimal or non-existent consultation with key human trafficking stakeholders”.

“This is unacceptable,” the MPs added.

The committee’s report further highlighted that there is little evidence for the UK Government’s claim that human trafficking protections are being abused to game the asylum system.

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Alison Thewliss, the SNP MP for Glasgow Central who sits on the committee, said: “Human trafficking is abhorrent and every effort should be made by the UK Government to eradicate it. However, the UK Government has decided to sacrifice its efforts on ending this heinous crime, and instead prioritises demonising asylum seekers and refugees.”

She went on: “The UK Government’s Illegal Migration Act also makes this situation much worse by ignoring the plight of victims of trafficking and allowing the criminals who perpetuate human trafficking crimes to go unprosecuted.

“In contrast, the SNP Scottish Government has prioritised ending human trafficking by implementing the ‘Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy’ to improve the identification and support of victims, deal with the causes of trafficking and exploitation, and punish perpetrators.”

The Home Affairs Committee is chaired by Labour MP Diana Johnson and also includes Conservative deputy chair Lee Anderson.

The committee’s report comes as emeritus professor of government Colin Talbot pointed out on social media that the Government’s rhetoric on small boat crossings is misleading.

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On Thursday, the Prime Minister (above) stressed that “small boat arrivals here are down by a third”.

He added: “Even as illegal crossings of the Mediterranean have soared by 80 per cent. Let me just repeat that: small boat arrivals here are down by a third.”

But Talbot highlighted the UK Government’s own figures that show Sunak was talking about the number of boats, not the number of people.

The Government data states: “In the year ending September 2023 there were 787 boats detected arriving to the UK, just over a third (34%) fewer than the 1189 in the year ending September 2022.

“Although the number of people and boats arriving have dropped, the number of people per boat continues to increase.”

In the year ending September 2023 there were 37,556 people detected arriving by small boats, 16% fewer than in the year ending September 2022 when there were 44,490. This is a fall of around one-sixth, half what the government is implying.